Rio de Janeiro’s two-pronged approach to fashion week rang up double-digit increases for the nation’s fashion houses in the capital last month.


Fashion week comprises an on-site salon, Rio-à-Porter, run by the organizers of Fashion Rio, and a simultaneous off-site salon run by a separate organization, Fashion Business. The two salons host different exhibitors.


Rio-à-Porter featured 169 vendors and generated a 16 percent increase in orders from domestic buyers totaling 610 million reais ($364 million), and a 20 percent increase in orders from foreign buyers ($22 million).


“Rio-à-Porter registered increased sales because the Brazilian fashion market has recovered from the 2009 financial crisis, and global fashion markets are also recovering, but at a slower pace,” said João Paulo Alcantara, a salon organizer.  “Sales to foreign buyers also increased because they had more buying power than those at last January’s event.”


Fashion Business featured 310 exhibitors, 82 percent more than the 170 exhibitors at the January 2010 event. This helps explain the 25 percent increase in orders from domestic buyers, to 690 million reais ($413 million).


Fashion Business did not invite foreign buyers because “stylists were showing their winter 2011 collections, which tend to interest domestic buyers more than foreign buyers who prefer summer collections,” said event spokeswoman Daniela Lua.  At the January 2010 edition of Fashion Business, foreign buyers placed $18 million in orders.


Fashion Rio, considered a showcase of more mainstream and affordable brands than São Paulo Fashion Week, presented a wide array of winter styles from 25 labels. Among the trends were “a mix of heavy tops and lightweight bottoms, long skirts, lots of fur, checkered patterns, and sequins, along with military and ballet themes,” according to local fashion industry consultant Gloria Kalil.


The event, like SPFW, is open to the public, which makes up 95 percent of attendance. Fashion Rio attracted 85,000 attendees, on par with January 2010’s edition.


Among trade visitors, Fashion Rio/Rio-à-Porter drew 30 foreign buyers from 14 countries, consistent with turnout at previous editions.


Gary Edgley, buying manager for Britain’s Selfridges, said that “even though quality and prices were good at Fashion Rio, most of what I’ve seen here is very much European-influenced, and our clients are looking for more original pieces.


But Edgely, at Fashion Rio for the first time, praised colorful and innovative print day-into-night dresses from Alessa as well as Acquastudio’s evening dresses.


Flavio Giorgi, a buyer for High Expectations, a Dublin-based fashion distributor to Irish boutiques and department stores, also found Alessa’s dresses attractive. He singled out her “Mermaid dress,” a digital print of multicolored crystals on stretch polyester with a deep-V neck at $200 wholesale.


Giorgi said that “Alessa’s colorful, playful, sensual dresses say ‘this is Brazil.’ I wish more of the brands here had that unique look.”


But other foreign buyers at Fashion Rio found styles to be fresher.


Sofia Powell, a buyer for Fenwick, a chain of 10 English department stores, is mainly buying brands for its London store, whose clients prefer understated fashion.


She ordered Wasabi’s black linen tops ($64) and Eloah’s aprés-beach wear: long, white cotton skirts at $80 wholesale, and oversize cotton shirts with multipleat backs ($90).


Claudine Paiva, the owner of Bossanova, two upscale boutiques in New Zealand, plans to spend around $20,000 at several brands, including Oestudio, “because of its dark and edgy style,” especially cotton suede jumpsuits ($160 wholesale), and Maria Bonita Extra’s ultra-thin leather jackets at $640.


“You can’t find stylish, lightweight leather jackets like these in New Zealand, where they are thick and meant to protect against the cold,” said Paiva.


Brazil’s swimwear still leads the pack, according to Carmen Gloria Flores, a Santiago-based distributor for Chilean boutiques. She’s buying samples from various brands, among them Verde Limão, because “Brazil has among the world’s most original bikinis and one-piece suits.”


She singled out Verde Limão’s beige bandeau-top bikini with a hand-crocheted appliqué at $35 and a one-piece suit with a digital print of tropical plants at $40.      


Although Brazilian fashion is rarely a bargain, few foreign buyers at Fashion Rio complained about price. Perhaps it was less of an issue than at some past events because, last month, the real, Brazil’s currency, had gained only 4 percent against the dollar and 10 percent against the euro since the year-earlier Fashion Rio. And those modest valuations didn’t make dollar- and euro-based fashion exports much more expensive than at the January 2010 edition.

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